Modes of Communication with Network Members Associated with Nativity Status and Obesity

Leslie Cofie, Stephanie Child, Adolfo Cuevas


Despite the troubling burden of chronic diseases like obesity among US adults, foreign-born individuals experience lower obesity prevalence than their US-born counterparts. Previous work has established a relationship between network characteristics including composition, homogeneity, interactions and density with obesity in adults. While network differences between US and foreign-born individuals may be associated obesity, little is known about factors that may help explain this relationship. Modes of communication may serve as a proxy for exploring the extent of interaction among network members. In the case of foreign-born individuals, it may indicate their connectedness with network members in the US and their country of origin. Insights into communication modes of networks may help explain the link between network characteristics and obesity prevalence. Therefore, this study examines whether modes of communication varied by foreign-birth status and also whether modes of communications. modify the relationship between foreign-birth status and obesity. The UC Berkeley Social Networks Study is an online and in-person survey of young (21-30 years) and older adults (50-70 years). The cohort data enable examination of US-born (n=975) and foreign-born (n=178) individuals’ modes of communication (letters, landline, text, email, social media, instant messaging, and video chat) and obesity (Body Mass Index [BMI] measures). Unadjusted association between communication modes and foreign-birth status were examined. We tested whether interactions between modes of communication and foreign-birth status are associated with obesity, adjusting for gender and age strata. Preliminary findings suggest significant difference in the associations of video chatting and instant messaging with family with foreign-birth status. There was also a difference in the relationship between video chatting with friends and foreign-birth status. The findings provide new insights into utilizing appropriate modes of communication to mobilize specific networks members in facilitating obesity interventions such as weight management and increasing physical activities.

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